How is the second wave of the pandemic affecting our mental state?

It goes without saying that we all continue to be affected by the global pandemic. At this point, three-quarters of a year in, have you been able to adjust to the ‘new normal’? I asked people how the second wave of rising Covid-19 numbers and ensuing regulations are affecting them and how it is different than the first time.

For some the changes are positive: “I enjoy working from home. When work is slow, I can get up and do stuff around the house” and “I welcome working from home. Sure beats commuting” and “I get to spend more time with my family since I’ve been working from home.”

For many the situation is more discouraging: “The flexibility to deal with all the changes is less than the first time” and “I think it’s starting off in a state of emotional fatigue. It’s having less in the tank to start with” and “The difference for me is the season; during the first pandemic, spring was coming, the days were becoming longer, we had good weather and we enjoyed being outside. Now we are going towards winter, Christmas is approaching and we do doubt we will be able to join family” and “The hardest part for me is the inability to plan anything (vacations, sports, activities- even haircuts) as I never know what the state of my county will be like a few weeks from now. It seems bleak, with no end in sight. There is nothing to look forward to and no answers to my kids’ questions about when life will be normal again.”

Daily, the news is full of advice ranging from avoiding the physical toll of working at improvised desks to not falling into the mindset of toxic positivity. Some of the comments I received were how people are protecting themselves, “This time around I stopped listening to the news sensationalizing the information. Once I discontinued that, the fear and anxiety subsided” and “Networking on LinkedIn and other sources is big on my list, as is additional learning to better my skills. When yeast finally hit the shelves at end of September, I bought enough, plus a backup for my needs. Same with the gloves, masks and wipes.”

How can we care for ourselves, especially our mental health?

Laura Lozza, of Grooa (a transformational leadership development academy located in the Netherlands), shares these suggestions to stay mentally strong and emotionally healthy:

“1. Talk about your challenges. Share facts, not judgments or complaints. Express how you feel about it. It is good to “vent”, it helps to release pressure. The more we keep our worries bottled up, the more they grow in seriousness and make us weak.

For example, I am sharing with friends how my son plans to get married in 3 weeks and how I might not be able to travel (crossing international borders) to be there with him; or how there is a risk that he might not be able to have the wedding party at all. I feel a roller coaster of hope, worry, anticipation and sadness. Once I say it and it is off my chest, it is easier to cope with the uncertainty without feeling overwhelmed.

2. Take responsibility for what you can control and take measures to stop worrying about what you cannot control.

Make sure that you choose every moment with full consciousness keeping a healthy balance. In a crisis it is easy to hide behind excuses and end up over-doing or under-doing.

For example, I am preparing to participate in my son’s wedding, but I set aside the temptation to imagine alternative plans in case things do not go as we wish (which, as a “mum” I could be tempted to do). This is not so hard, and my awareness is sufficient, but for something harder I have to resort to relaxation exercises: e.g. I need a bigger effort to set aside worries for my daughter’s well-being, who is alone, stuck in chaotic Manhattan, working in a UN building where colleagues are already getting sick.

Those two steps are highly recommended: please find a way to stay connected, share and identify ways to protect your mental health.” (For more tips on mental safety in difficult times visit http://grooa.dev-projects.techmental-safety-in-difficult-times/ )

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to protecting your mental health, so really think about what it is that sparks joy for you and find a way to build it into your daily routine, giving you something to regularly look forward to. Make sure to reach out to others, we are all in this together.